By Laurence W. Holmes-
(CBS) Considering the situation that Bears find themselves in at 3-5, a single breakdown of the 51-23 loss to the Patriots seems pointless, so the we’re approaching the 24 Hours Later reaction a little differently today.
The Bears were outcoached, outplayed and outperformed Sunday. The problems of the Bears are bigger than even this most embarrassing game. So this week, let’s talk about what’s wrong.
While there’s a call for action at 1920 Halas Drive, there isn’t much to be done and judging by coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery’s press conference Monday, because the likelihood of something radical happening is remote. You want to lash out. You want a pound of flesh. It’s understandable, but the problem there isn’t a boogeyman. The problem is systemic. There are so many to blame, so let’s break it down.
Blame Jay Cutler? Makes sense.
Cutler was given a long term extension with $54 million guaranteed in the offseason. The Bears believed that Trestman was the perfect coach for the inconsistent quarterback. Some of Cutler’s numbers have improved, as his completion percentage and passer rating are up.
The problem is that he still turns the ball over. This year, it’s been at the worst times. The trend still holds: In games that he doesn’t turn the ball over, the Bears win. When he does turn it over, they lose. Cutler’s effort is there and he sometimes doesn’t know when to give up on a play. His fumble late in the first half Sunday is the latest example. If you take the sack, you live for another down. If you try a chest pass with Patriots draped around your legs, failure is more likely than the spectacular outcome. Cutler’s an enigma. His talent is tantalizing, but he’s fatally flawed. It’s sad because Cutler does have a desire to win. He just hasn’t figure out how to channel that into his decision-making.
Blame Marc Trestman? Of course.
Trestman is 8-13 in his last 21 games and 11-13 overall in his Bears tenure. Trestman squandered precious practice time in Bourbonnais and preseason game time, trying to preserve players instead of finding out what they can actually do in game situations. He’s not fulfilled the promise of being a quarterback whisperer. His clock management is questionable, and it’s fair to wonder if his seemingly passive demeanor causes players to run him, instead of the other way around. It’s ironic that a guy who wrote a book on leadership looks like he’s struggling with it. It’s a difference between theory and practice.
Blame Mel Tucker? Yes.
Tucker had an excuse last year. He was a coordinator who was conceding to the his locker room by coaching a defense he didn’t believe in. When the defense didn’t perform, it made sense to allow him to do things his way, with new position coaches to implement his ideas.
The problem is that Tucker has never had sustained success as a coordinator in his NFL career. It’s easy to say “follow the money” and look at the offense, but remember, the Bears spent big dollars on Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young. They also took Kyle Fuller, Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton early in the draft to bolster his group.
As a whole, the Tucker project hasn’t worked. Forget about being demolished by Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady for a minute. The Bears defense has been bested by EJ Manuel (now benched) and Ryan Tannehill (who was threatened to be benched) too. The Bears are dead last in punts forced (22) and punts forced per game (2.8). Forcing turnovers like they did early in the season hasn’t continued, and the team can’t figure out how to get consistent pressure.
Blame Brandon Marshall? It’s acceptable.
Marshall hasn’t produced up to his standards so far. Some of that is on Cutler, but Marshall isn’t getting enough separation on routes. The problems that many around football were worried about with the mercurial wide receiver have been slowly seeping out of the Bears locker room for awhile. It seems that if he’s not happy, no one can be happy.
Blame Phil Emery? It’s not hard.
Emery’s vision for this team was to be an offensive power while the defense got up to speed. If the Bears don’t make the playoffs this season, that will be three years under Emery without a playoff appearance. He hired Trestman. He gave Cutler the $54 million guaranteed. He signed Marshall to the $30-million extension. He (along with Trestman) described in great detail why Tucker deserved to stay. He failed to fill the bottom of the roster with a quality kick returner or special teams players.
Along with all of these things, it’s becoming clear that Emery is unwilling to admit failure when it comes to Shea McClellin. Emery’s explanation that injury alone is the reason McClellin hasn’t succeeded is insulting. If that assertion is true, then why did Emery spend money on three free agent defensive ends?
I could go on and on here — Joe DeCamilis, injuries, etc., but I digress. My point is that it’s not a quick fix. The problem flows both ways. What I always come back to is this: Are there people in place who you think can turn things around? Right now, there’s no evidence of that.
Let me leave with some hope as the bye week continues.
There’s no reason to think the Bears can beat the Packers on Nov. 9. Cutler-led teams have been terrible against the Packers, and Rodgers is the best quarterback in the game. But if the Bears can somehow squeeze a win out, their schedule softens with the just-as-bad Vikings followed by the putrid Bucs. If the Bears beat the Packers, a 6-5 record isn’t that hard to imagine, but the Bears fixing their problems in two weeks?
That seems like asking for a miracle?
Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.